Game of the Year 2022
2022 finally came to an end a few days ago, so Happy New Year for 2023! Looking back, what a crazy year it was, not just for video games, but all the madness that has been happening outside of our lovely hobby. This list is too long to mention in this opening paragraph, but we can only hope everyone stays safe.
Now that everyone has had a break to think about the year and are hard back at work, it felt right to showcase the variety of great games that were available in 2022. DarkZero has voted on our favourite games of the year. Let us count you down through the gems that made it into our very own top 20 list.
20 Sucker for Love: First Date PC
Absolutely the most niche entry on this list is the comedy/horror dating-sim, Sucker for Love. What started as a brilliantly over-the-top and out-of-place entry into one of the Dread X games, this bizarre game blends Lovecraftian lore with anime aesthetics and, most importantly, asks the question – would you give up reality itself to smooch an Elder God? No? Well what if they were hot lady Elder Gods designed around particular kinks like being bratty or radiating dommy mommy vibes. I didn’t know whether I should be hiding under a blanket or taking a cold shower and laughed harder than with any other game this year as I explored every alternate path, line of dialogue, and ending; gleefully watching universes of universes be warped, destroyed, and reset in order to win a no-doubt rather slimy peck on the lips from beings beyond comprehension. Winner of the most creative, silly, horny, and unique games of the year without a Shadow over Innsmouth of a doubt.
19 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, Switch
I enjoyed Streets of Rage 4 last year but honestly felt all of the fanfare was a bit much – it was fun, but hardly a scratch on Shredder’s Revenge. This remake of the 2D arcade brawler classic blew it out of the park with gorgeous pixel art, all of our favourite characters each with their own unique and varied movesets that are drip-fed through level-ups, and remixed music and stages that are fantastic on their own but also a beautifully detailed love-letter to the original. The nostalgia factor is certainly high on this one but I can also say first hand that it has been a homerun for all of my friends’ and family’s kids too. In fact, they’ve gone off to become TMNT fans because of it! The core loop may be as simple as you can imagine but it will never not be fun to beat up baddies in co-op and especially as our favourite shelled crime-fighters. Plus, there are all sorts of fun challenges for each level if you want to go through solo. No doubt this is one I’m going to be replaying every time we have the little ones around and there’ll be no complaints from me.
18 Cuphead: The Delicious Last Course PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, Switch
The subtitle ‘Delicious Last Course’ is the perfect descriptor for this little add-on to the now classic 2D action boss-battler, Cuphead. One of my all time favourites, this hand-drawn masterpiece of art design and simple old-school combat taken to the extreme in terms of variety and challenge has been teasing this dessert of a DLC for years now. What a pleasure it was to jump back into it after all this time for a final bite of one of the best games of this generation. The only sad part was that, after having waited so long, I ravenously ripped through all twelve new bosses in but a single evening, leaving me drooling for more once again…
17 Teardown PC
Teardown has been in Steam Early Access for the last couple of years, but 2022 saw the title release its 1.0 version and offer a rather impressive puzzle destruction video game. Teardown is designed in such a way that it enables people to create solutions as good as their imagination, which is rare for puzzle games because they are often set in their own rigorous rules. This design enables people to come up with ridiculous solutions. The destruction and physics engine are amazing, which allow for some brilliant devastation. Teardown’s destruction is not just for show as it adds to the game’s experience and character, and the freedom that comes along with its fully destructible world lends itself to the creativity that it hands to the player. Teardown is a demolition fan’s wet dream, a sandbox of beautiful carnage that also happens to be a great puzzle game, and it just got some new content in the last few weeks!
16 Supraland Six Inches Under PC
I don’t know a single other person that knows about the Supraland games, let alone has played them – what a terribly depressing thought! With some of the best puzzle designs around, this endless sea of discoveries is the ultimate adventure game and although the jokes may get silly at times, they are always charming and joyful, which is an apt description of the series as a whole. Six Inches Under was originally meant to be a much smaller DLC for the original release but sort of turned into a 1.5 version, as the devs say, so it was a wonderful surprise to discover it by accident later in the year as part of the Dem-OH! streams and get to dive back into another giant expansive experience so dense with secrets and brain-teasers you’ll have to see it to believe it. So heed my warning – you’re going to miss out dearly if you continue to ignore Supraland!
15 God of War Ragnarok PS4, PS5
Building on the template from God of War’s (2018) more freedom exploration redesign and over the shoulder camera view, God of War Ragnarök continues Kratos and Atreus’ adventure into the madness of the Norse mythology and the incoming Ragnarök catastrophe. Santa Monica Studio has made everything bigger in the follow up. The world is larger, which looks brilliant, probably one of the best-looking games of 2022, the story makes for a great ride, full of twists and turns, even if the beginning is a little on the slow side. I enjoyed how the writers have bent the mythology to bring in Kratos into the mix; it makes for memorable scenes between the well voiced cast of characters and the Norse bestiary. The gameplay remains similar to the previous game, with Kratos still having a lack of weapon variety, which always bums me out a little, as when the third weapon is introduced, the combat truly begins to showcase what it is capable off. Overall, though, the game is an improvement on 2018’s foundations and one of the more memorable action-adventure titles in 2022.
14 Mario Strikers: Battle League Switch
Fifteen years my friends and I waited for the next entry in the Mario Strikers franchise and, finally, after all this time, here it was. And although I’ll remain disgruntled with Nintendo’s constant and inexcusable lack of content in every one of their games outside the absolute biggest, the core gameplay of Battle League is a ton of fun. Short matches full of mayhem that will have you jump up from the couch and yell at your chosen team members for missing what seemed like the perfect shot, or throwing your arms in the air at that skin-of-your-teeth victory. So much emotion is squeezed into every second, especially when playing locally. What an ideal party game that requires both team-work, skill, and just the right amount of luck to hype up everybody in the room. This is one I haven’t managed to play much of near the close of the year but I’m already feeling the itch to get back and continue the ongoing rivalry with my girlfriend – a conflict that frequently kept us up until early hours in the morning over the summer months. I can already feel the adrenaline…
13 Gran Turismo 7 PS4, PS5
After the focus to an online vision with Gran Turismo Sport, I thought the single player Gran Turismo experience might be vanishing after waiting nearly 10 years for the next mainline entry. Polyphony Digital made sure that was not the case with Gran Turismo 7, bringing back the single player content that fans have become to love about the series, along with beautifully rendered cars and a solid driving engine that balances between the sim racer and less dedicated racing players. All those painful licence tests and challenges return along with the idea of collecting all the cars in the game, which keeps growing each month with newly added content for free. After a rough launch with some of its microtransactions, the game eventually sorted that out and left us with the best racing game of 2022 with one of the best dynamic weather systems going, with rain simulation on wet track surfaces modelled with detail not currently seen in other racing games. Welcome back, Gran Turismo, I missed you.
12 Warhammer 40,000: Darktide PC
I was waiting for this game to happen! As a fan of the Warhammer 40,000 universe and both Warhammer: Vermintide games, I was just hoping one day Fatshark would convert their Warhammer version of Left 4 Dead for the grim darkness of the far future where there is only war. The developers have done an amazing job with the visuals and atmosphere. The level design and its environment feel ripped straight from all those illustrations seen in the Codex books. While it goes for the darkest corners of the universe, which lacks Space Marines, Terminators and all those front-page stars, the idea to take the prisoner scum of the universe and send them on suicide missions for the Emperor against the chaos infected helps balance the melee and range combat between the four classes available. Visceral melee combat and solid gunplay help this cooperative game offer plenty of hours of fun, and it is a beauty to look at as well, using all the latest graphical technology available, such as raytracing, to bring those Warhammer 40k environments to life.
11 Metal: Hellsinger PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S
New Doom mixed with a heavy metal rhythm game set in hell. If that hasn’t already won you over then I don’t know what would. Gifted with an array of visceral weapons each requiring different abilities and timings to master in order to blaze through the diabolical circles of hell and its myriad of deadly inhabitants in search of your voice is the coolest thing you never knew you needed. Whilst there aren’t many individual levels – the scoring system, challenge missions, difficulties, and best soundtrack of the year will have you going again and again in order to prove your worth as the baddest metal-head around. Hearing the music build up until eventually it bursts into singing as you build up and maintain your combo is the most heart-pounding gaming moment of the year. You feel it through your whole body and can’t help but to bang your head to the beat. Now pack on some awesome shots as you blister around each arena ripping demons to shreds and there’s no way you can’t love Metal: Hellsinger.
10 Marvel’s Midnight Suns PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S
Coming in as one of the last big games of 2022, Marvel’s Midnight Suns from Firaxis Games, more known for their XCOM and Civilization titles, was an unknown for a while. It was announced with a flashy trailer showcasing some of the Marvel superheroes, but what the game itself was not clear until closer to release. Initially I was expecting a copy of XCOM, but in fact, Marvel’s Midnight Suns is more like some of the Japanese tactical RPGs, but with moves involving a deck of cards. Not exactly a card game, but one that uses deckbuilding as a move set to decide what can be used in each opponents turn. This infusion makes for an aggressive tactical game that is not too complicated, making it perfectly suited for superhero fans who might not be the biggest tactical game players.
Each superhero has their traits to separate them from each other, Blade likes to evoke bleed on enemies, while Magik kicks people through teleports to set them up for environmental damage. Throw in some out-of-combat shenanigans in a medieval castle that goes deeper into the lives of the superheroes away from the game’s big battles, think Persona’s social links, but with friendship ratings, and what there is to find is a surprising amount of character development happening during the game’s somewhat predictable overarching story. This was the biggest surprise for me in 2022, and I so happy I managed to squeeze it in before the year ended.
9 Bayonetta 3 Switch
The witch is back, for what seems like forever from its initial announcement back in December 2017, but Bayonetta is back in her third instalment in this hyperactive character action series. Bayonetta 3 is an interesting game. On one hand, it has one of the best combat mechanics in video games, and it supports this by constantly delivering new weapons (I love the demonic yo-yos) and demon summons, the new mechanic for Bayonetta 3’s already top of the class fighting system, so the combat always remains enthralling and charming. The story was madness, which I kind of expect now from this series, but moving to the multiverse enables for so much inventive design with its characters and weapons that the game won me over with its premise; who does not want to see how Bayonetta could have looked like in Ancient Egypt or a modern day France?
The problem is the vision for Bayonetta has begun to outgrow the hardware requirements, as Bayonetta 3 has some issues with frame rate on the now ancient technology within the Switch. While this does not stop the game for delivering the best action of 2022, it does tarnish the presentation of a game that should be able to show all its wonderful witchy delights and flashy combat.
8 Patrick’s Parabox PC, Switch
There are too many sokoban (block-pushing puzzle) games. I stand by that. And far too many of them are almost identical boring puzzle games with minor twists on the mechanic and no staying power. Patrick’s Parabox, however, may be the absolute best of them all, so much so that it transcends the genre to such a degree that it may actually be one of the best puzzle games of all time. That may seem hyperbolic but the amount of times this game broke my brain in order to open it just a little more to the endless possibilities of the 4D manipulation of recursive boxes that can contain themselves is absurd. Each puzzle isn’t just the reiteration of the latest new mechanic as you might expect, but often requires you to think about them in a completely new way each time. I still haven’t even managed to get all the way through this one due to its ever increasing complexity and I suspect I’ll be chipping away at it still for a good while, providing me with plenty more bite-size brain-burners to chomp my way through. What a treat!
7 Elden Ring PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S
It was inevitable that the Soulsborne series would eventually move into an open world design. It just seemed the next logical step for a game that has always wanted players to go and explore its environments. My worry was all the previous entries were designed to such near perfection, the placement of enemies and how they affect the challenge, that I felt this would fall apart in a bigger, more grander setting, but no, this was no the case.
The land known as The Lands Between increases this sense of discovery even more than previous titles. Open world games shout that you can “go to what you see” when exploring, but Elden Ring truly does this, but throws in the big dangers of enemies being tougher than the standard video game foe. This open world has bosses simply enjoying their morning stroll looking for some poor schmuck, (me in this case) where they can showcase their power, and yes, that means players will die a lot, but die and learn, and I think that is what makes Elden Ring a special case, the fact that it got me improving myself with each encounter, something usually saved for more restricted designed environments, and doing it in an open world setting. That takes some amazing development skill to craft something that superbly designed.
Elden Ring was the best open world game since The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. While it does not offer the madness of creativity that Nintendo’s game does, Elden Ring sits on the other end of the spectrum where exploration and combat take the centre stage above environmental interactivity, and that makes for a bloody exciting time in a genre of video games that is overly crowded, hell even Sonic dipped his speed shoes into the open world design this year. Elden Ring will be remembered for bringing its fantastic combat and distinct art to the open world formula without losing its identity, and that is something quite rare to do these days.
6 Xenoblade Chronicles 3 Switch
Nintendo has had a great year in 2022, with a few titles already on our list and some just missing out on the top 20, however, Xenoblade Chronicles 3 ends up coming out the highest among all the Nintendo titles released this year. Xenoblade Chronicles 3 feels like Monolith Soft took some of the criticism of Xenoblade Chronicles 2 and decided to blend the best of the first two games to create this follow-up that is just as big and long as any entry. Xenoblade Chronicles 3 keeps hold of the massive open-world exploration that the series has been known for and within this world, while can be barren at times, is filled with dangerous foes that open up the entertaining combat thanks to the battle mechanics that strip away some of the repetitious action and makes it all about chaining special moves and abilities together to boost the biggest damage combos. A solid story is always welcomed for an RPG, and this entry has a great cast of characters, better and more mature than the young teens of Xenoblade Chronicles 2, as it touches on themes of survival and sacrifice for things that you believe in, even if the truth never turns out what it seems to be. Sure, there are some of those anime tropes here, but it is one where you do not care because you enjoy the company and its extended supporting characters in this huge Japanese RPG.
5 Neon White PC, PS4, PS5, Switch
I counted down the days to Neon White’s release after playing the demo and the full game only continued to impress. It’s a speedrunning FPS game where the player is only given limited actions, weapons, and ammo depending on the routes you take and how you approach the enemies laid throughout your path to the exit. Learning the perfect use of the armaments and movement abilities in order to blast through a new level is so damn fun and a testament to the phenomenal clean level design that guides players through seamlessly but also excellently teases shortcuts and alternate avenues. There’s also a hilariously over-dramatic take on JRPG storytelling going on between the missions that simply couldn’t have been written any better.
4 A Plague Tale: Requiem PC, PS5, Xbox Series X/S
A sequel which needed to expand on more of what made the original A Plague Tale: Innocence a surprising hit, and it did just that. A Plague Tale: Requiem is not the biggest leap in gameplay innovation for a sequel, but that does not stop it from being a great continuation of the series. The developers have upped their craft to tweak the formulas in mostly the right ways to improve on the gameplay, while the narrative is delivered better to offer an engrossing narrative-focused experience, and the locations and events that happen during the story make it far more memorable. You cannot mention A Plague Tale: Requiem without the graphics, especially some of the mind-blowing environments and vistas, no matter how beautiful or vile their settings are, plus the incredible rat rendering technology included, help make this some of the best visuals in a medium for 2022, with some great stealth gameplay backing all this up.
3 Tunic PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, Switch
Whilst everyone else was still gushing about Elden Ring earlier this year, I was having my life changed by the most unassuming indie game. Not only did Tunic’s secrets take over my every waking thought as I was playing it, but it has been consistently popping into my head ever since when thinking of recommendations from this year. What at first glance may seem like a simple isometric Zelda-style action adventure turned out to be one of the most incredibly paced games I have ever experienced. By unlocking more of the game’s manual as you go (albeit written in some strange runic language) and then using every tiny detail within in order to discover entirely new levels of gameplay mechanics and lore absolutely shook me. Even now just writing about it I can remember the pure joy I felt as more of its world clicked into place. I honestly expected it to be a huge hit such as Fez or the likes but I suppose I’m going to have to do an even better job championing this one next year!
2 Marvel Snap PC, Android, iOS
I have been entranced by the undeniably masterful design of this title. Building on the simple ‘win 2 locations’ design of the well known board/card game ‘Smash Up’ with all sorts of insane abilities (thanks to the digital format handling upkeep), the depth and nuance at the core of MARVEL SNAP is mind-blowing. It’s a deck-builder’s dream and a strategist’s paradise; providing players with a solid set of interesting and unique powers that, yes, do fall within certain deck archetypes, but also reward those that are a little more creative with their tactics. And all this is squeezed into two to three minute games that can easily be played in the queue at the coffee shop or even for a full three hours waiting in an airport (both recent real life examples of my love affair with what may continue to be my favourite ongoing passtime).
1 Nightmare Reaper PC
Nightmare Reaper is a game I instantly fell in love within the first few minutes of experiencing its madness. This indie game from Blazing Bit Games has players progressing through a young lady’s disturbed nightmare while finding an assortment of random generated weapons in this mix of rogue-lite and looter shooter. Nightmare Reaper is packed with neat ideas that somehow manages to make them all work together. The core of the game, the retro-inspired first-person shooting, feels extraordinary, and the huge amount of weapon variety and stats that drive their behaviour keep the combat refreshing and exciting. Level design is generally great, even with the element of precentral generation.
Nightmare Reaper keeps going after the game is finished with its New Game+ mode offering even harder challenges, continuing the addictive loop of surprises. In the end, Nightmare Reaper is one of those indie games that should be classed as a gem. This is a wonderful labour of love with a lot of character, an addictive title that is happy for players to rip and tear through its nightmare dream to a banging soundtrack and rapturous combat. This is a bloodstained fountain of gratification that ends up winning DarkZero’s Game of the Year for 2022.
Congratulations to the team at Blazing Bit Games and Nightmare Reaper for taking the top spot, our runner-up Marvel Snap and the other entries too. Some truly awesome games were released in 2022.
Happy New Year and best wishes from everyone at DarkZero for 2023!